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The Mists of Avalon (Mists of Avalon 1) (original 1982; edition 2008)

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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12,348239205 (4.1)2 / 562
This book was a bit weird for me. I know the general legend of Arthur and I know that it doesn't end well. So going into a book, knowing that the ending isn't happily ever after made the book hard to read. I would read 20-30 pages (then I'd be busy at work again), and I'd set it down. And every time I picked it up, I would be slightly reluctant to start reading again because, again, I know the ending. But every time I start reading it, I get completely immersed in the story to a point where I wouldn't want to put it down. The book was a big tug-o-war for me but I can truly say that this book is one of a kind.

Bradley shows such REAL feelings in her characters. You find greed, lust, ambition, love...This truly is such a well rounded story that I think it would appeal to any type of reader. Bradley creates a beautiful layout of the land and of Avalon, so much so that you can see it in your mind and believe that you are there.

This was definitely a story of EPIC proportions. I hope they make an epic movie out of this like Lord of the Rings ;) ( )
1 vote Danielle.Montgomery | Apr 19, 2012 |
English (220)  Dutch (9)  Italian (3)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (237)
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Great interpretation from a woman's perspective of the Arthurian legends. ( )
  Lylee | Apr 3, 2016 |
Part 1
The first part shows us Caillean and Gawen (Eilan's son), who we know from the prequel, The Forest House. Caillean assumes the role of High Priestess of Avalon and somewhat a foster mother to Gawen. Gawen is raised as a druid, but from time to time, the Fairy Queen takes him with her to teach him. She also has a daughter, Sianna. The Fairy Queen and Caillean agree that Sianna will be given the teachings of the priestesses of Avalon. Spending their childhood together, Sianna and Gawen have a special bond. By the end of this first part of the book, Gawen and Sianna have become more than just friends. Sianna will bear Gawen's child, though Gawen himself will not live to see his daughter, as he is killed when he tries to protect Avalon from the Christians and a Roman patrol. After these unfortunate events, Caillean calls upon the mists so that Avalon will be inaccessible to anyone who cannot handle the magic to lift the mist. When Caillean grows too old, Sianna assumes the position of High Priestess and her daughter after her, thus starting a lineage of High Priestesses.


[edit] Part 2
The second part tells us about High Priestess Dierna. She takes in a new novice of royal blood, named Teleri. When she gets a vision about the new Protector of Britannia, a Roman admiral named Carausius, she arranges for Teleri to be wed to the man, so that she can help him with her priestess knowledge. This is not to Teleri's liking however. She doesn't love Carausius. Some years later, Carausius gets more and more opposition from all sides. Teleri will flee from her husband and give support to one of his former trustees to become the new High King. Eventually, Dierna and Carausius will find each other and become lovers. The High King hunts down Carausius who tries to reach the safety of Avalon and Dierna, but fails to reach it, dying of his wounds at the edge of the lake of Avalon. Some time later, Teleri realised the mistakes she made and finds her way back to Avalon, where she is reunited with Dierna and becomes her successor.


[edit] Part 3
The third part focuses on Avalon High Priestess Ana and her third daughter, Viviane. Viviane was fostered on a farm, but when she is 14 her mother sends Taliesin the Druid bard to escort her to Avalon. There she completes her training as a priestess, but Ana won't let her go through her initiation, so Viviane continues to remain a novice. This allows her to be the first maiden in centuries to be able to handle the Holy Grail, which is kept by Taliesin's order of Druids. Viviane's temperament takes after Ana's, so their characters often clash. Finally, Viviane is initiated when she becomes Vortimer's lover but returns to Avalon when he dies, where she bears his daughter. Sadly, her child dies a few months later. Ana is also pregnant, but birth proves to be difficult at her age. At last Ana and Viviane find forgiveness for each other, but Ana does not survive the birth of her last daughter, Morgause. Luckily, Viviane can nurse Ana's daughter, since her body is still accustomed to breastfeeding her own child.

This last part leads us to the storyline of The Mists of Avalon.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
If you've never before read a modern retelling of a fairy tale or legend, or if you've never really thought about Christianity, paganism, or in fact feminism, then this book might intrigue you. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Absolutely amazing book that seamlessly flows through King Arthur's lifetime through the eyes of women who heavily influenced his reign. It is great to see a familiar story from another point of view. There are multiple main characters who push their own ideals and agendas. There are no bad guys in the story, just people governed by their own ambitions, religion, love, and greed. The theme that is the most apparent is the acceptance of Christian religion and its portrayal of women, infidelity, and worshiping other gods. There is an overall message that women should have courage, not be ashamed and looked down upon. This is portrayed by many different female characters who are strong in their own ways, revealing that there is no one way a woman (or any person) should be, as long as they are them self.

The discussion of religion in the book is profound. It shows that a religion is a constantly changing idea. While one religion may fade as another rises, the new religion takes on many aspects of the old religion, changing itself into what the people are use to. The author also demonstrates that you should think for yourself and look in heart to see what is right.

While the book is incredibly long and dense, it does not get tiring as characters change and grow, and the timeline is steadily moving along. It is really well written and all around fantastic book. ( )
  renbedell | Feb 19, 2016 |
Love it!!! If you're a fan of King Arthur's tales you'll love it too... ( )
1 vote Glaucialm | Feb 18, 2016 |
This book kind of blew me away a little bit. I love the Arthurian legend so I was excited from the beginning, even with the slow pace. This take on the legend has both the classic events and new twists. I don't think there is one accurate telling of the legend and seeing Bradley's take on it was fantastic. I loved how simple it ended up being. One small event that creates a chain reaction. Innocent things leading to others. The magic was portrayed pretty realistically in my opinion; I feel that even the magic could be interpreted as happening in real life, if that makes sense. Gwenhwyfar's piousness got on my nerves more than I expected her to. Morgaine was my favorite, which was startling at first because she's not always portrayed in a likable manner. Here she was very likable. The writing takes a little bit to get comfortable with, at least for me. But once you're in, you're in. I recommend it on audio. I really really enjoyed this rendition, and highly recommend it to those fans of the legends, if you can ignore the facts about the author to enjoy a wonderful story. ( )
2 vote Kassilem | Jan 30, 2016 |
Great book! The feminine perspective on the King and how betrayal can burn holes in the universe. A nice companion novel is the more male-oriented _The Once and Future King_ by White. ( )
1 vote dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
One of my all-time favourite books, the best re-telling of the Athurian saga I've come across. This is told from the point of view of the women in the tale, mainly Morgaine who is Arthur's sister. The conflict between the old religion and the new, illuminating the merits and faults of both, is beautifully played out - even if we all know how it ends. Sadly, the prequels and sequels to this one are dissappointing. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
4.5 rounded up.

Ms. R's Book Bingo: "Read a book your parents recommend."

2015 Reading Challenge: "Read a book with magic." ( )
1 vote | Cecilia_Ridley | Jan 10, 2016 |
Expecting the book to be an example of positive feminine energy, I was quite disappointed. The two most powerful women in the book - Vivian, followed by Morgaine, are essentially war lords, selecting their puppet rulers to defend their empire.

I think it's a great piece of fantasy, and love the grounding in Arthurian legend. But I was really hoping for something other than war and violence.

The book is unbelievably pessimistic, in the sense that I had a hard time connecting with all of it's negativity. By the end of the book, pretty much every person Morgaine cares about has been killed either directly or indirectly because of her actions. Not only that, but patriarchy's conquest is complete, Avalon having fallen into the mists. ( )
  willszal | Jan 3, 2016 |
. . . I really want to like this. Arthurian mythology told from the point of view of the women, with a pro-pagan, Goddess-oriented slant ticks so many boxes for me. However, I still had a hard time getting into this. This is the second time I’ve attempted to read this book and it is quite the slog for me.

My problems with it . . . well, for instance, this is billed as a “feminist" retelling of the Arthurian myths, as it is told from the point of view of the female characters. And sure, the main characters who are women are strong and smart and capable . . . but we’re constantly told throughout the narrative how STUPID and USELESS women - like ALL other women in the world - are. This is not feminist. It says that only EXCEPTIONAL women are strong and smart, 99% are weak, vapid, twittering morons.

”Yet [Morgaine] found Gwenhwyfar’s company, and Elaine’s, endurable; most of the other women had never had a single thought beyond the next meal or the next reel of thread spun.” (p.308)

And then there’s a bit about how “ugly” pregnant women are:

”[Gwenhwyfar] smiled at [Lancelet] and felt comforted. Perhaps it was just as well that she was not pregnant and ugly . . . she saw that he looked on Meleas with a faint scornful smile, and she felt that she could not bear to be ugly before Lancelet.” (p. 309)

um, what?

Also, for a “feminist” retelling, the main characters are mostly preoccupied with if the cute boy likes them or not. Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar both spend a ton of time wangsting about pretty-boy Lancelet.

Gwenhwyfar’s thoughts are also full of her angsting about her angst and what an “impure” awful girl her lustful thoughts make her. Which, I get is MZB’s criticism of Christianity and how it warps women’s perceptions of themselves and their feelings - but it makes reading Gwen’s parts incredibly annoying!

I found by the midway point the book started catching my interest again. There are some reveals about Lancelet’s feelings that are more complex - and interesting - than I would have given the narrative credit for, and the interesting way in which the Arthur/Gwen/Lancelet love triangle plays itself out in this version is a really original take on the storyline that I personally enjoyed.

But it was impossible to like Gwenhwyfar the character - she spends all of her time internally whining about Arthur or Lancelet or her own emotions, then takes all the guilt and oppression her Christian religion inflicts upon her and projects that into a full-on vendetta against Avalon, the Lady of the Lake and the pagans living in Britain. She refuses to listen to Arthur’s level headed and fair opinions and instead badgers him non-stop, whines, pleads and makes him feel sorry for her until he betrays Avalon and sets about making Britain a Christian nation. But she’s certainly not above going to pagans like Morgaine for help and supernatural assistance when it suits her,and again, whining and crying until they feel sorry enough for her to help her.

MZB’s version of Gwenhwyfar has to be the worst, the most unlikable, and one of the most annoying and unlikeable characters I’ve come across in fiction, period. It’s not so much the side she’s on that does it for me - but her lack of actual internal reasoning behind the side she’s so adamantly in support of and the way she goes about getting what she wants - whining, crying and playing the “oh poor little me” card until the people around her give in to her demands out of sheer annoyance.

I also found it a shame that we didn’t get to see more of the priestesses of Avalon and their religion. Despite it being more favourably treated by the narrative - I think we’re clearly suppose to sympathize with Morgaine more than Gwen - it is quite vaguely described, despite Morgaine being a main character and her being a priestess of Avalon. I wish that more time was spent on Avalon, describing the lives of the priestesses and their rituals and rites. Those parts were always pretty rushed-over and vague. And I didn’t really enjoy how Morgaine spent so much of the book in angst about how she had betrayed Avalon and her goddess and how she felt unworthy, etc. etc. it is the same sort of oppressive, controlling hold over people that Christianity is criticized for in the book. The only difference, really, is that the pagans have priestesses, but they aren’t really more “free” than the Christians as depicted here - both feel bound in service to their higher powers, like pawns, forced to do and endure unpleasant tasks and trials and always made to feel unworthy and small. So in the end, what’s really the big difference between them? Maybe that was MZB’s point, but I personally would have liked to see both sides explored a little more in-depth. ( )
1 vote catfantastic | Nov 4, 2015 |
crazy long but crazy good ( )
1 vote katsmiao | Oct 23, 2015 |
crazy long but crazy good ( )
  katsmiao | Oct 23, 2015 |
crazy long but crazy good ( )
  katsmiao | Oct 23, 2015 |
Read this in college for a class in Arthurian literature. Amazing book; very long! ( )
1 vote glindaharrison | Oct 19, 2015 |
Read this in college for a class in Arthurian literature. Amazing book; very long! ( )
1 vote glindaharrison | Oct 19, 2015 |
"Reading The Mists of Avalon, I was slightly alienated by the cold, unromantic approach Bradley decided on while retelling the legend, swapping out the mysticism of Merlin, The Lady of The Lake and the evil sorceress Morgause and instead implanting them with the magic of neo-pagan theology. Also at cost of Bradley's approach was the sweeping and winsome tales of Arthur and his knights of the round table, and replaced with instead a more political, Machiavellian take on the women of King Arthur. Despite the odd nature the author brings to her retelling, I found this worth the read. The women of King Arthur are certainly empowered, but are not exemplified as better than men in any way. Instead, The Mists of Avalon reads more as a fable on the consequences of power and the accompanying tragedy that comes with keeping it.



The subversion of the classic Arthurian myth is mostly accurate here. Mostly. The anti-christian rhetoric is ever-present, told mostly through the voice of Guinevere, who is negatively portrayed as Arthur's manipulator and the destruction of Avalon's influence in Arthur's court. Despite her being portrayed as a religious fanatic, I would say Bradley portrays her with enough dignity to justify her as more of a victim of her oppressive upbringing. Mordred, who I've come to see as the embodiment of treachery and evil in these Arthurian tales, is ultimately more humanized here but no less presents the story with a conflict that resolves this saga in a satisfying, complete way.

Overall, Bradley writes an engaging tale, full of revelation, foreboding, character introspection and political intrigue. Her ideas of ""what is or what should be"" are at times rather didactic and present ideas that seem to be in favour of her theological underpinnings, as opposed to ideas that can be interpreted by the reader. That being said, I am not completely against most of Bradley's ideas; she does offer a progressive and otherwise more pro-educative view on theology. One that inspires thought and rumination on the power, disillusionment and manipulation of a belief system. Her portrayal of women, particularly the ones who hold influence over the men, is interesting but heavy-handed and not entirely convincing, even in the logic of the Britain that she has created.

Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review:
Never name the well from which you will not drink.
There is no sorrow like the memory of love and the knowledge that it is gone forever.
What wise God would consign a man to Hell for ignorance, instead of teaching him better in the afterlife?

The Last Passage
Gorlois let go of Igraine's arm. She could see the marks of his fingers already reddening into dark bruises; she rubbed the marks, tears streaming down her face. Before the many faces surrounding them she was appalled, as if she had been taken and shamed; she covered her face with her veil and wept harder than ever. Gorlois pushed her before him. She did not hear what he said to Uther; only when they were outside in the street did she stare at him, amazed.

He said in a rage, ""I will not accuse you before all men, Igraine, but God is my witness I should be justified in doing so. Uther looked at you just now as a man looks at a woman he has known as no Christian man has a right to know any other man's wife!""

Igraine, feeling her heart pounding in her breast, knew it was true, and felt confusion and despair. In spite of the fact that she had seen Uther only four times, and dreamed twice of him, she knew that they had looked at each other and spoken to each other as if they had been lovers for many years, knowing all and more than all about each other, body and mind and heart. She recalled her dream, where it seemed that they had been bound for many years by a tie which, if it was not marriage, might as well have been so. Lovers, partners, priest to priestess-whatever it was called. How could she tell Gorlois that she had known Uther only in a dream, but that she had begun to think of him as the man she had loved so long ago that Igraine herself was not yet born, was a shadow; that the essence within her was one and the same with that woman who had loved that strange man who bore the serpents on his arms in gold ... .

How could she say this to Gorlois, who knew, and wished to know, nothing of the Mysteries?

He pushed her ahead of him into their lodging. He was ready, she knew, to strike her if she had spoken; but her silence frustrated him even more. He shouted, ""Have you nothing to say to me, my wife?"" and gripped her already bruised arm so strongly that she cried out anew with the pain of his hand.

""Did you think I did not see how you looked at your paramour?""

She wrenched her arm away from him, feeling as if he would actually tear it out of the socket. ""If you saw that, then you saw me turn away from him when he would have had no more than a kiss! And did you not hear him say to me that you were his loyal supporter and he would not take the wife of his friend-""

""If I was ever his friend, I am so no more!"" Gorlois said, his face dark with fury. ""Do you truly think I shall support a man who would take my wife from me, in a public place, shaming me before all his assembled chiefs?""

""He did not!"" Igraine cried out, weeping. ""I have never so much as touched his lips!"" It seemed all the more vicious since she had indeed desired Uther but had kept herself scrupulously away from him. Why, if I am to be accused of guilt when I am innocent of any wrongdoing even as he would call it so, why should I not have done what Uther wished?

""I saw how you looked at him! And you have kept apart from my bed since first you set eyes on Uther, you faithless whore!""

""How do you dare!"" she gasped, raging, and caught up the silver mirror he had given her, flinging it at his head. ""Take back that word, or I swear I will throw myself into the river before ever you touch me again! You lie, and you know you lie!""
" ( )
1 vote AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
Arthurian legend from the female perspective. The protagonist is actually Arthur's sister, the one who also mothered his child that proved to be his nemesis. A mammoth book to an adolescent! I discovered Mists of Avalon during my tenth grade year, when I had learned about Arthurian Legends in English class. My interest in the subject matter was almost quelled by the length of the text--somewhere around 1000 pages. After the very first page, I was hooked! This was my favorite novel of all time during my high school years, igniting an interest in Wicca, mythology, magic, etc. A story as beautiful as the goddess within us all. ( )
1 vote engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a wonderfully enchanting tale of the Arthurian legends.
The book takes you into another world, and lets you explore the time of Arthur through the eyes of a women.
This book is wonderfully intricate and full of fantasy, intrigue and romance. ( )
  Haidji | Aug 11, 2015 |
This is a very female version of the Arthurian tales. It is largely sympathetic to Morgan la Fey and the culture of the Druids and unsympathetic to Christianity. Magic was used surprisingly successfully throughout the story. This version was successful in making the characters seem more complex and realistic and less focused on the buffets on the head that seem to be ever-present in the Malory version. I also enjoyed the aspects of these tales that are less discussed in other versions, such as the magical boat and the semi-present Avalon. One aspect I didn't fully understand was the fairy land characters occasionally encountered when trying to reach Avalon. Other details of the relationship between Lancelot, Gwen, and Arthur were a surprise but were not inconsistent with reality as presented in this version. Overall this is an interesting addition to the Arthurian legends. ( )
2 vote karmiel | Jul 29, 2015 |
One of my all time favourite books! A must read for anyone who enjoys Arthurian legend. I don't believe the popularly held theory that it's a "woman's book.
  Avalon59 | Jul 27, 2015 |
One of my top 5 favorite books of all time! ( )
1 vote jenladuca | May 22, 2015 |
Mists of Avalon-Mistress of Magic is the first of the Avalon series that presents the legend of King Arthur, retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. In this first book, the tale is told primarily from the points of view Morgaine, (Morgana Le Fey), Priestess of Avalon, Viviane, The Lady of the Lake (and Morgaine’s aunt and mentor) and Igraine (the mother of both Artj=hur and Morgaine). The author presents the story of Morgaine from childhood to Priestess in her home on the Isle of Avalon, the center of Druidism and goddess worship. This is also the story of the political and religious conflict between the new Christianity and the "old ways" of goddess worship. Believers of each religion seek to control the throne. I found the novel interesting, presenting a new perspective on the Arthurian legend, and particularly of the character of Morgan Le Fey. I look forward to reading the other books in the series. 3 ½ out of 5 stars. ( )
1 vote marsap | May 4, 2015 |
Ah. I was so looking forward to reading this book as I've been wanting to get my teeth in to some Arthurian Legend for a long time now. It was also quite interesting to see it from Morgan le Fey's P.O.V. (and other women besides) but the writing was just terrible and it was so slow and rather predictable. It was less Classic Arthurian Legend re-telling and more self-indulgent FanFic. ( )
  Xleptodactylous | Apr 7, 2015 |
Notes for the reader: The first hundred pages has a plot. The other 500 hundred are sex scenes smeared with talk of sex and no remaining plot. By page 250, every paragraph is about sex. The plot is lost.
It destroys any beauty in ancient myths and legends. If you enjoyed King Author's myths and histories, don't read this! At least she changed the names a bit, so maybe people can re-read the King Author stories without the taste of bile in their mouths.
Just because it's popular to write mixed gender porn, doesn't mean it's necessary.
It would have been nice to read a novel from the females of the time's point of view. They thought about far more than sex!

What ages would I recommend it too? Only those who are comfortable reading about sex, rape, and incest.

Length? Many days.

Characters? Memorable, several characters.

Setting? Fantasy.

Written approximately? 1982.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? This book return to the used books store.

Any issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? Find the plot. Reduce the sex scenes to the minimum necessary. Allow the characters to be believable.

Short storyline: Females in King Author's life and their porn tales.

( )
  AprilBrown | Feb 25, 2015 |
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